A Little Buzz
August 30, 2011

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Don’t balk at that image yet, guys: it’s here to prove a point about lessons learned.

First of all: hi! I’m back in DC preparing for a new semester, which starts tomorrow. I cannot believe that my time off flew by like this: it really does feel as though I took my chem final yesterday. Thanks so much for the fun and warm responses to my Vida Vegan Con posts (here and here, if you’re catching up). I have at least two more to share, but today I wanted to take a break to talk about a recent change here at CR.

A few of you have noticed that I switched my main blog advertiser from FoodBuzz to BlogHer. Observant readers! It’s true: as of a few weeks ago, I officially ended my relationship with Foodbuzz. The reason? Meat, chicken, and diary ads were repeatedly showing up on my site, and I had no authority to ensure that they would be blocked in the future. Many of you noticed this and emailed me, tweeted, or commented. I tried to explain that I was doing my best to persuade Foodbuzz to let their food bloggers exert some control over ad content. I didn’t get far.

Before I go any further, let me make clear that Foodbuzz is not the Goliath in this story, and I am no David. It is nowhere stated in the Foodbuzz contract or language that vegan bloggers (or any other specialized group) can control their ad content, and veto at will. What Foodbuzz promises is that, if ads are offensive to a blogger or his or her audience, they will do their best to take them down in a timely fashion. And they always did this for me when I complained.

By the time a Tyson chicken ad showed up on CR, though, I was becoming frustrated and dismayed that Foodbuzz wouldn’t consider changing company policy to allow bloggers the chance to state clear preferences about ad content: it was my understanding that many other advertisers do. And I hoped that if I and other vegan bloggers took a firm stand, we could perhaps impress upon Foodbuzz that, in our day and age, specialized eaters (vegans, vegetarians, eaters with food allergies) are growing in numbers; shouldn’t a truly forward-thinking publishing program try to accommodate these groups?

Now, I realize that there is a slippery slope to beware of here: if everyone were to start offering up special requests, any ad program might easily become bombarded. Who’s to say an onion-hater won’t ask for ads without onion, and so forth? But I think that there are crucial differences between veganism, which is an ethical position, and preferences of taste. I don’t endorse or like processed food, but I could live with an ad for Lays potato chips or king sized bags of Twizzlers on my blog. A steak, on the other hand, pushes the limits of my conscience. (OK, I realize as I’m typing that even this is complicated: both Lays and Twizzlers are made by large corporations, and neither is organic, and it’s conceivable that both can ultimately impact human health…but try to assume that I’m drawing a difference here between the troubling and the totally unacceptable.) Asking a company or institution to respect one’s veganism is a bit like requesting a religious accommodation: when I sit out of animal dissections this fall in biology lab, I’ll most likely be joined by other vegans and kids who are opting out because their religion discourages dissection.

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Even if you think this comparison is extreme, the point remains: can’t there be a way for an advertising network to respect its bloggers’ ethics without becoming bogged down in micro-preferences and fancies? I think so: it simply requires a willingness to labor over and define boundaries. Just as many institutions and organizations have managed to accommodate different faiths without falling prey to the self-interested, so too can ad networks respect groups like vegans and vegetarians without becoming entirely consumed by the demands of individual taste. Tons of ad networks, Blogher included, already do.

Of course, a company has a right to opt out of such accommodations if it wishes to. It may be my opinion that FoodBuzz would benefit from allowing vegan bloggers to opt out of meat and dairy ads, but it’s not their policy, and that’s fine: they never said it was. I simply tired of the conflict this created for me: how could I write about animal rights on my blog, and monetize meat ads on my sidebar?

I contacted the folks at Blogher, who were more than happy to welcome me into their family. BlogHer has excellent policies when it comes to honoring their bloggers’ preferences and world views: one can opt out of not only ads for animal products, but also ads for fast food, for religious products, for birth control, for political parties, and quite a few other groups (naturally, you risk limiting your revenue if you check too many boxes here). The folks at BlogHer have warned me that occasionally an ad will fall through the cracks; that’s fine, I said. I’m not interested in occasional oversights or errors. I’m interested in the company’s basic policy and practices.

As excited as I am to join BlogHer, I’m sorry to leave Foodbuzz (and told them as much). The company believed in me and supported me when I was a fledgling blogger with no readers at all, and I think it does wonderful things within the food blog community: it connects, excites, and celebrates its publishers in a lovely way. It pays bloggers generously, and I even recommended it to Chloe when she began her blog. But I don’t think it’s the right choice for vegan bloggers—at least not vegan bloggers who object to advertising animal products to their readers.

I have no clue how my modest blog income will change from this move. There is a good chance that I won’t earn as much as I was, but I have no details as of yet, and I really can’t give you a monetary comparison of FoodBuzz and Blogher as networks. What I can tell you is that Blogher has a really progressive attitude toward taking into account its bloggers’ beliefs, and that you should get in touch with the company if you find yourself in need of a publisher who demonstrates such flexibility.

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So why am I bringing all this up? Not to critique Foodbuzz, who for the record was gracious about my departure. I’m writing it to thank you all for having challenged me on the ads. Those of you who did were directly responsible for my leaving FoodBuzz (you guys, that is, and Katie, who had the guts to do it a while ago). Quite a few of you noted the animal food ads, and spoke up: I’m glad you did, because you reminded me that sometimes being vegan (or having any other kind of conviction) means taking steps that may have inconvenient repercussions, or changing arrangements that are comfortable.

I want to thank you, too, for reminding me why I blog. I didn’t start CR blog to make money; I started it because I’m obsessed with veganism and raw food, and I wanted to inspire other people to love them as much as I do. It became a business, and it clearly still is one, but CR remains first and foremost a passion project for me. Even if I were I to nix ads and stop generating any income at all—in spite of med school loans, and in spite of the fact that I don’t have a day job anymore—I would still write this blog. I write it because I love it; because I want to share a compassionate message; because I want to touch the lives of women who suffer with EDs; because I adore my readers and our thoughtful dialogs; and because it’s the one thing left in my life (aside from reading) that connects me to the written word.

This past weekend, during our positive blogging workshop, there was a lot of talk about negative comments. How do you deal with them politely? Do you delete them? Etc. I find that we bloggers often talk about what we do with negative commentary that’s spiteful and/or inappropriate, but we rarely talk about the negative comments we get that are totally valid and on-point.

I get a lot. You guys are really good at calling me out when I get too heated, when I get sloppy and generalize, when I get snarky and lack compassion, or when I fail to see another point of view. You always have been. And I love it. I don’t blog to feel celebrated or popular; I don’t expect you all to tell me how great I am or puff up my ego. I love our conversations because you make me see viewpoints that I might otherwise ignore, and you offer counter-arguments that make me think. Some of my best exchanges were with readers who challenged me: Elizabeth pointed out that my What Food is Not post came close to taking the pleasure and joy out of eating, and it was from her comment that my Embracing Our Appetites post emerged. One reader emailed me to say that she found me proud, lacking in humility; two years later, we still email, because that remark generated a wonderful and illuminating correspondence. A reader who once told me that she found my blog triggering is now one of my loveliest regular commenters; she forced me to reexamine moments where I was speaking in broad strokes about diet.

The point is, I don’t just write this blog to inspire or inform: I also write it to be inspired and informed by the people who read it.

So thank you, all of you, who had the guts to point out that the meat and chicken ads were out of keeping with my message (yes, even you angry tweeters). I needed to hear it, and it means a lot to me that you take my blog seriously enough to have challenged me. I hope you’ll find that my ads are more in sync with the spirit of CR; when something does fall through the cracks (as I’m sure it will) just say so, and I’ll ask for it to be taken down. I can’t promise perfection, but I can promise you a new ad policy, and no matter what, I can promise that I’ll be listening. I always am.

xo

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    49 Comments
  1. Good for you. We shouldn’t have to have our blogs covered in images that are in direct conflict with the content of our blog. Would they could have been swayed to implement a “choose your types of ad” policy, but it’s good you took a stand and left.

    Also, you get to sit out on dissections?! That was not an option for my labs, I wound up dropping the pre-med program altogether because I couldn’t stomach them. Sounds like I should have just found a more accommodating school!

  2. I think you’re probably one of the most gracious people I have met. You have convictions – but are willing (and able) to see all sides and give everyone the benefit of the doubt (and respect for their own decisions). You’ll be one hell of a doctor someday.

  3. I love BlogHer at least partially because I can target my ads. And for me it’s not about making money (I haven’t made any off my blog so far), but the community, and I find that the BlogHer community is mostly diverse, welcoming, and passionate. I love that I can opt out of things like processed food ads and ads for products I strongly disagree with in some other way. Good for you for recognizing there was a problem and making a change.

  4. Congrats! I really respect your decision and while I’m new to your blog, I gained a lot of respect for you from reading this post. Kudos for doing the right thing, and honoring your ethics over your wallet! It’s not an easy choice.

  5. glad to you are happy with BlogHer, I know you are still new to it, but I can tell it is going to be a great fit. I never really pay attention to ads much, guess I am just used to them, from TV to magazine, even facebook. So I just look at the content on the blog not what ads it has, but that is just me 😉

  6. Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate and enjoy your blog. I’ve been a loyal follower for over a year now and always love your recipes and posts. Thanks very much 🙂

  7. What a great post, Gena. Your sentiments here are all spot on (and eloquently expressed, as usual). I’m so happy you switched to a advertising platform that is more in line with the message of your blog. I remember in the past seeing some of those FoodBuzz advertisements for non-vegan products and wondering about them. I never said anything, though, because I figured it was just something you overlooked. So glad to hear that is not the case, though!

  8. Gena, after meeting you this weekend and speaking with you about this, your change makes good sense. I have Foodbuzz ads on my food blog and BlogHer ads on my body image blog.

    I’m know there have been non-vegan ads on my food blog (even though I requested no animal product ads — Foodbuzz said they would do their best and to let them know when an ad was problematic). I am interested in some of the comments here. I read many vegan blogs that offer recipes with “(or butter)” or “(or goat cheese)” as a recipe alternative and frankly I’m far more offended by that. When I see an animal-product ad I know that the blogger didn’t request it. But to intentionally offer animal-product options in recipes is more certainly intentional. But the author is probably cognizant of their non-vegan readers and wants to be accessible. I know I have non-vegan readers but I do not offer animal-product options in recipes.

    This is my long-winded way of saying that this vegan journey is a long one, a bumpy one, a glorious one and I’m always learning. You have inspired me to see if I can work with Foodbuzz or if I should try to get out of my contract.

    Thanks, as always, for inspiring thought and conversation on important issues!

    • Great comment. I’ve seen that a few times–butter and goat cheese–and while I think it’s all well and good to be accessible, I think it totally undermines the message of a vegan blog. Aren’t we trying to show people that cooking without animal foods can be accessible and rewarding all on its own? Reverting back to dairy doesn’t help to make that point.

      A long road indeed. And it’s full of steps for all of us. This was a big step for me.

      • Seen that too, find it as offensive. People try to hard to please others but I Think it’s an ethical responsibility to put animals first since rarely anyone else does.

    • P.S. Forgive typos. I got home from PDX this morning and finally went to sleep at 5:00 a.m. There is not enough coffee in the world to zap my brain into function mode! 😉

  9. When I began reading blogs, I hated the ads, and really appreciated the sites that avoided them. It was an aesthetic reaction more than anything else. But because I appreciate the content so much, I tolerate the ads (unless a site is cluttered with them). I realize that for many folks, blogging is a full time job – in every case, it’s an investment of time and energy entirely deserving of compensation – and the ad revenue is not insignificant. If I had a successful blog myself, I would want to monetize it too.
    I do think when the ads are not in keeping with the spirit of the blog, it creates an experience of cognitive dissonance for readers that ironically, makes the ads more noticeable. So, while I didn’t notice 90% of the Food Buzz ads on your site, I always noticed the chicken ones.
    And ome ads are less obtrusive than others – Clotilde has moved her above the fold ads to a fourth column on the right of the page so that you barely notice them.
    I love the way Amanda Soule monetizes her blog through featured sponsors (http://www.soulemama.com). I think those 97 x 97 images on the right are adorable, and fit with the DIY aesthetic of her site. When she takes on a sponsor, she does a blog post introducing them and often includes some kind of giveaway. I almost always click through from her posts to the sponsor pages, and I’ve discovered a lot of neat websites in the process. But it’s obviously hugely time consuming to advertise in this way, so nothing i’d recommend to you.

  10. That’s actually one thing I’ve learned about you through your comment section: that you take criticism very professionally. I’ve read disagreeing comments on your blog, and I’ve also read your responses to those comments. I love that you’re open to a healthy debate. It makes it a lot easier to read your blog than it does to read a blog run by someone with a one-minded mentality.

    That doesn’t necessarily relate to the topic of advertisements, but since you mentioned getting called out on your blog, I just wanted to compliment you on how respectful you are to your readers.

    As for the advertisements, I completely agree with your standpoint. I don’t know what kind of effort might have to be put forth by way of the agency in order to monitor ads in such a way, but I can’t fathom it being significantly difficult. It makes perfect sense for a vegan blogger to not want an ad for chicken on her blog. There should be some kind of system that upon sign-up, the blogger can check off which topics she deems appropriate to appear on her site.

  11. It’s great that you’re now with BlogHer versus Foodbuzz since they weren’t a right fit. I don’t understand why they couldn’t just remove the ads that you didn’t want… do they have a series of images that aren’t animal-product related?

    Welcome back too 🙂

  12. I noticed the change in your sidebar as well, but thought you were simply adding to your impressive credentials with a BlogHer affiliation. Your rationale and explanation make complete sense to me, and the respectful way you approached the issue leaves no room for reproach for anyone involved. It’s personal convictions, and no one can be faulted for that (and I agree with you 100 %.)

    My blog has no advertising whatsoever–I have no idea how to self-host, and that’s a BlogHer requirement–so I can’t relate to the monetary compensation aspect. Plus, my blog is teeny weeny in comparison to CR. But I have to imagine that no matter what route you chose, it would be worth your while.

  13. Good for you for Gena for standing up for what you know is right for you!

    I do worry about advertising, more specifically for my blog when I see so many fitness or weight loss related type ads. I don’t wnat those on a blog promoting ed recovery and yoga!

    As for dealign with negative/postive comments. I’ve found that when you put yourself out there enough people are going to disagree with almost anything you say. I however don’t mind them and welcom those comments! It is proof that people are thinking about something and often comments based in negativity have stirred something up inside!

  14. Gena-I’m so glad you said something.

    I had the exact same experience. I was really troubled by the content of the FoodBuzz ads because of my blog content. There was a voice in my head telling me to take it down for months and months-but everyone else had FoodBuzz and I didn’t act. Then one of my readers commented about it. I contacted FoodBuzz immediately and was TOTALLY blown off. I couldn’t even find a telepone number for them and e-mail was the only form of communication.

    I took the ads off. I’m not blogging for advertising dollars.

    SHortly after I was contacted by Bliss. I’m going to give it a try. I’m a little sceptical. Theyy are a really interesting network of bloggers with a whole community of support. You absolutely can have a ton of control over the advertising on your blog if you go with them, but guess what? You can’t get rid of processed food or junk food ads–because without them, there wouldn’t be much advertising to sell!!!!!! So now I’m in another pickle.

    Thanks for spotlighting this issue. You always make me think a little more, a little more clearly.

  15. Personally, the meat/dairy ads never bothered me. I understand that people who blog put a lot of effort into it and I think they should be compensated, which means they must have ads. I think sometimes some vegans get overly sensitive about issues such as this and can put off non-vegans who are considering veganism. Perhaps a lot of other vegans or readers felt like me too and didn’t particularly care but because only the people who cared commented or contacted you it makes it seem like a lot of vegans are sensitive about this issue. Who knows? But it’s great that you can still get compensated while also not having meat/dairy ads. 🙂 Win-win!

  16. Brilliant, brilliant post, Gena. I absolutely support and value your decision about switching ad companies. I’ve never really had to deal with this because the Australian-based blog network I’m signed up with doesn’t have enough ads for blogs, so in the past year, I’ve had ads on my blog for about a month, max. But even then, it was for a car, which was rather beyond the scope of my blog… (I know that cars have wheels and they go. That’s it.)

    Also, bravo on using negative comments (when relevant and pertinent to the discussion) as a platform for evaluation and deeper thought. I’ve actually never had a negative comment on mine (I’m clearly not big-leagues enough) but I’d hope to be as courageous in the face of it as you.

  17. I’m not even vegan, but I enjoy vegan cooking and have read your blog for years now, and the ads always bothered me a little, because they were such a contradiction to the spirit of the blog. Good for you for standing up for the blog and keeping it real.

  18. Such an eloquent post about this decision! You already know where I stand so it’s not necessary to go into it here. I’ve been thinking recently that sometimes the seemingly smallest decisions (or the ones we perceive to be insignificant) are the ones that leave the biggest impact when it comes to veganism. A friend recently shared with me that he only thought of vegans as “militant” until he met me. When we first set up a lunch date together, I expressed a need for a place that would accomodate my veggie needs, but otherwise was fine with whatever he wanted to eat. To me, that was normal. To him it changed how he saw vegans!

    In short, I think your decision, while obviously much more significant than being flexible about where to dine with friends, just proves that how we act as vegans — and not just what we eat — matters to those around us. The mixed messages coming from vegan blogs with animal product ads are frustrating (and sometimes infuriating) to a vegan, but they’re confusing to everyone else. And I’m starting to think that’s worse.

    Whew. Long comment. So glad you wrote about this! xo.

  19. This reminds me of a great quote from one of my favourite movies (The Contender) – “Principles only mean something when you stick to them when its inconvenient.”
    I commend you for your decision Gena.

  20. I actually haven’t got into advertising on my blog at all, and not sure I ever intend to. I find this post really interesting and informative so thank you, especially as I always find the ads for processed and meat foods on healthy lifestyle blogs to be an “interesting” contrast to the content.
    xo

    • There’s an inner cynic in me who thinks that, unless your blog is HUGE, you’ll never make anything substantial through ads anyway. And since they do sort of cheapen the look, why bother?

      But that’s cynical 🙂

  21. Great post, Gena! I’ve been thinking of jumping ship with FoodBuzz too for the same reason, especially when my hubby was the first to notice meat ads on my site! I hope FoodBuzz will seriously consider updating their policy soon, or I’ll be considering a similar move. I like that BlogHer allows you to have Google ads too, another issue I have with FoodBuz currently.

    Seems like a forward move for your blog and a reminder for any vegan to consider all messages they’re sending.

  22. I am so glad to read this. Glad to hear you lay out your rationales and thinking, so glad to hear that you’re open to listening. Back when I hadn’t been reading your blog for very long, I pointed out an ad for eggs. I think I also pointed out a typo, and was afraid that you probably thought I was obnoxious! This feels like a relief.

    I’m also learning from you–my blog is still _tiny_ but I’d love to take it to the next level, even with school and everything else. I’ve been thinking about blogher vs foodbuzz, and your witness and experience are so helpful.
    love
    Ela

    • Haha. Actually, I do kind of hate having grammar errors pointed out. Only because a) I used to edit, so my errors embarrass me, b) I have less time to self-edit since school started, and I want to scream “don’t you get that I can’t write perfectly in so little time, and c) I’m being a big, cranky diaper baby. But I remember that comment, and no, didn’t bug me 🙂

      • Right–that was exactly what I figured for why such a comment could have been obnoxious (iirc it was back before you started school, but otherwise same same)–I have those reactions when I see a typo in my own writing too!

        And I was in such a rush–I forgot to ask my most important question on this post: what are you going to do when you sit out dissection classes? I’m really curious. I totally understand why you would sit them out. On the other hand, as a ‘witness to omnivorous lifestyle,’ I’ve helped out with some –er–dissection–as part of the harvesting process (less and less nowadays, but I have done so) and I have really appreciated the learning that I’ve garnered from the experience. It’s given me much respect and reverence for those bodies. Do you get to dissect human cadavers also?

        Hope you don’t mind all this curiosity…
        love
        Ela

        • Ela,

          I’ll be posting on this. My professors are great about it, and there’s a ton of stuff that you can do online or from books that are just as effective as fetal pig, rat, or heart dissection (which even many lab instructors will agree are not irreplaceable). Having taken some bio, I found fetal pig dissection to be terribly wasteful.

          I’ll keep you posted. Cadavers don’t come in till med school!

          G

          • Thanks–I’ll look forward to your post on this. Yes, I would worry about the wastefulness with animal dissection also, not to mention, you’re training to be a doctor, not a vet! (Cf. all the animal studies about this or that human process: stretches credulity.

        • i sat out of dissections and contacted some anti-vivisection societies and PCRM to help me find alternative materials.

  23. This is SO beautiful, Gena! I don’t really pay attention to the ads, in general, but sometimes they are surprising to me (the Tyson chicken one was kind of funny). I’m glad you made a choice that feels better for you and most of your readers, though! And your last paragraphs about negativity was so beautiful. Most bloggers just attack negative comments without seeing any truth in them. I love that this blog is a great place for discussion and in turn, we all learn things from each other. That’s the main reason I read your blog-even though I’m not at a point in my recovery to be fully vegan-your writing is thoughtful and it always makes me think.

  24. Nice! It’s nice to know you are a truly open-minded person who embraces critiques and complements alike. I treasure people like you (ego boost alert!) and am glad you are not only clarifying things here, I admit to having some thoughts about those ads, but reminding your readers of the benefits of communication, honesty, and criticism as a constructive tool. Hurrah! We all need those reminders every now and then.

  25. Thank you so much for this!! Both the post and being so sensitive to your and our beliefs. As a new vegan blogger I’ve been noticing the same thing. You’ve inspired me to contact BlogHer and see if they’ll take me on! Though I seem to remember a length of contract in my Foodbuzz paperwork. I’ll look into it. Thanks so much for keeping in touch with why you do what you do!

  26. Wow, Maybe I haven’t been reading your blog long enough but you seem to be very rational and I can’t imagine anyone giving you grief about anything!!
    Can’t wait to hear more about the conference, it sounds awesome!!
    Hopefully Blogher will work just as well for you. Yeah, it seems like there should be more choices out there-even though vegans don’t like to call it a “relgion”, to me it seems almost that adamant in my heart (maybe because I don’t have a religion ! 🙂 So yeah, it stinks to see KFC on a vegan site! But maybe that is another solution, BUY them out. If enough vegans buy stock in these companies, then maybe we can change the companies?? Hmmmmm……Vegan Takeover plan being formed!! (I don’t have stock in those places, but just thinking……..)

  27. Thanks for addressing it! It does seem very narrowminded for foodbuzz not to allow more choice for their bloggers. To be honest most of their ads are filtered out by my ad blocker and I am happy for it. I find it really hypocritical for a vegan blogger to have an ad for a non vegan product. It really limits their credibility to me. For now I can only hope they have the strength to follow in your footsteps.

  28. Gena what a fabulous post! I was just on another blog last night, a friend of yours who you saw at the vegan conference, and there I was on her site, waiting to comment, watching an add for M & M’s. She’s vegan and they are not vegan and they’re candy. Not sure if she would care or not. It was just more of a wow, this is interesting now isn’t it moment.

    And another friend of mine is a mom and she’s cool but I know she doesn’t want to portray a certain image on her blog and I FREQUENTLY am on her site and there are ads for Fredrick’s of Hollywood on it. I am sure many people would object to that, both as a a blogger and as a reader.

    But the ad networks just do what they want.

    Thank you for candidly laying out your rationale and choices and thought process. I was one who noticed and we chatted about it but this post on it fleshes out the details and I hope that BH continues to impress you.

    I was just featured today as the FBuzz Daily Special so for me, right now, I am really proud to be a FB publisher but I 100% understand your situation and applaud you for making the move and putting your money where your mouth is so to speak.

    The whole neg comment situation..and being able to learn from our readers’ comments, sure. Been there. Sometimes they are so far fetched they hit the trash can as fast as they came but sometimes the neg ones ARE spot on…that’s where the growth happens 🙂

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